Augmenting Immersive Telepresence Experience with a Virtual Body

We propose augmenting immersive telepresence by adding a virtual body representing the user’s own arm motions as realized through a head-mounted display and a 360-degree camera. Previous research has shown the effectiveness of having a virtual body in simulated environments; however research on whether seeing one’s own virtual arms increases presence or preference for the user in an immersive telepresence setup is limited. We conducted a study where a host introduced a research lab while participants wore a head-mounted display which allowed them to be telepresent at the host’s physical location via a 360-degree camera either with or without a virtual body. We first conducted a pilot study of 20 participants followed by a pre-registered 62 participant confirmatory study. Whereas the pilot study showed greater presence and preference when the virtual body was present the confirmatory study failed to replicate these results with only behavioral measures suggesting an increase in presence. After analyzing the qualitative data and modeling interactions we suspect that the quality and style of the virtual arms and the contrast between animation and video led to individual differences in reactions to the virtual body which subsequently moderated feelings of presence.